Thursday, April 7th, 2011
“I went to Virginia Tech as a professional swimmer with an interest in engineering. I quickly realized that engineering was boring, and I much preferred taking things apart and putting them back together. One day, a friend of mine introduced me to the schoool of architecture. I walked in and people were throwing pots and building models. I couldn’t believe people actually got grades for that. In 1980, I stopped swimming and fell in love with architecture. I have since devoted my life to it.
“During college, I spent time in D.C. in my study of urban architecture. I had never lived in an urban place before, but I really liked the scale of this city and all of the green. In 1982, I got my first job in D.C. and have pretty much been here ever since. I spent time in a lot of other cities like New York, Los Angeles and Seattle, but I find Washington to to be the most civilized.
“While civilized, it is also a fairly conservative city, not only politically, but socially. Architecturally, it never breached the line of producing terrific buildings like Milan, New York or Chicago. The city tends to produce a lot of classic and historical buildings. One of the challenges with pushing the envelope here is the preservation side of Washington. Most of the city is a historic district and protected nationally for its historic character. Thus, an architect needs to find a balance between cutting-edge and the classic style in this city. Those decisions also take a review board that has some guts and isn’t afraid of things that are different. I am not sure if we are there yet in this city. Hopefully, my generation, or the generation that follows, will break the mold and bring more edgy architecture here, things like the East Wing of the National Gallery by I.M. Pei, which I think is the best building built here in recent history.
“In a word, I would describe my style of architecture as being contextual. Our firm, Trout Design, designs buildings so they fit the context and the surrounding areas. We are sensitive to scale, materials, and the way buildings touch the skyline. We watch how the sun works with the space and where the shadow lines are. We feel the breezes and smell the smells. We look at how other people interact with the site and how traffic flows.
“For the first ten years, most of the work our firm did was high end, single family residential. Now, we are expanding to do condominiums and apartment buildings. Currently, we are working on the former Italian Embassy on 16th and Fuller St. NW with the Potomac Construction Group. The building is a registered landmark here in D.C. and has gone through many failed attempts at being developed. It is a shame that it has taken so long, but then, we wouldn’t be here if it had.
“The project is ultimately going to be a 110-115 condominium building with 75-100 parking spaces. The building will have a semi-private outdoor pool and a residential tower on the corner of Mozart and Fuller that blends into its surroundings. We will preserve the exterior and the developer wants to also keep some of the most magnificent spaces inside: the grand foyer, the ballroom, and the library.
“For me, architecture is sculptural. It is not a static thing. We have a great deal of responsibility for how our sculpture interacts with the context of where it is built. When we finish a project, we want to give the feeling that the building has always been there.”